Today I w as on the Literotica discussion board with fellow authors there, checking on things after posting a new story (Wolf Tales I: The Claiming) and found a thread about a serious plagiarism problem facing erotica authors. I snockered at how quickly professional writers who craft novels and smith-words devolve into name calling that would embarrass a ten year old, but one writer did contribute a good link: Amazon's Plagiarism Problem.

 Both writers and readers need to be particularly on guard with plagiarism in the modern age, thanks to how easy it is to crank out an eBook. Okay, if you do it right, editing, marketing, learning to use MobiPcket Creator, it's a huge pain-in-the-ass, but compared to buying your own printing press to make a paper copy, it is much simpler.

For the readers: how do you know you're getting a quality, original story? Thgere are a few things to do when shopping at places such as Amazon's Kindle store:

  1.   Read the comments, and click on the author name to read discussions on the author
2.   Google the author name and title to check for other hits  
3.   Google character names and sample sentences in quotations to check for other hits
4.   Check the product description: if it's just the first 2 paragraphs of the story you're dealing with either      a plagiarist...or a moron

This is most rampant with erotica, and many of my fellow authors on Literotica.com are finding out they've been ripped off. Goody goody, this means now I spend an hour or two each week scouring Amazon to see if my free writings are up for sale under some asshole's name.

For writers, there are some things to know. The basic law of copyright contends the second you write it, it's yours. The trick comes in proving it. Plagiarism comes mostly from story posting sites and not always the one you intend. I post on Literotica.com but do a search of screen name "madam_noe" and you get some site called AskJolene (or something similar) as well. They repost the story titles and ratings, but at least they link directly to Literotica. Reposting is harmless, it's free promotion, in fact. But someone selling your work...if I ruled the world we'd burn them alive in the town square, so I probably shouldn't run for office any time soon. However the legal system agrees this is serious, and protects you.

If you post on a site under a screen name the copyright extends to the screen name. All you have to ever do is prove you're the holder of the screen name to claim it, in addition to proving the copyright date. The site you post on will always list the date in your dashboard, a screenshot suffices, or if the posting date is on the post itself a link to it will do.

Now if you ever find your work plagiarized, you must contact the publisher or distributor directly not the author. They already stole your work, the damn low-functioning sociopaths, if you contact them directly they will at best ignore you, at worst start a flame war. That's worse than a land war in Asia, avoid it. Simply send a link or screenshot to the publisher or distributor and ask that they remove the story at once and suspend the account of the "author." You don't need a lawyer at this stage, just solid proof of your copyright and the right contact person, email, or address.

Now, how can you protect yourself? There are a few ways, but nothing is foolproof. The single best way is to post only on a site that protects the author's copyright,such as Literotica. "Protect" doesn't mean they scour the web for you, taking down plagiarists, it means they keep accurate posting records and can furnish proof for you in a dispute.

You can also insert a copyright into your story under your legal name. For me, for example, that would read; Copyright Nora Quick, 2012.

A dirty trick I employ is to only post unedited first drafts. That way, at least when it's stolen, there will be enough spelling/grammar errors to piss people off who paid for it. Seriously, my "editing process" for my Literotica work is me writing, chain smoking, more often than not drinking beer looking at the page count and saying "that's a good place to break. Done!" My editing process for my novels is hours and hours and hours of self-editing, then review by 3 editors who always find some boneheaded error or ten I inevitably always leave in.

If you find your work has been stolen, take a deep breath, find the contact person at the publisher or distributor, get a link and/or a screenshot of the original, and draft a letter that is professional and respectful. The publisher/distributor didn't know this is a fake, don't yell at them. Appeal to them for help, remember you want them on your side. Once that's done, if it's an online retailer selling the ripoff, leave comments explaining to potential buyers it's a fake.

Never settle for ripoff artists! Readers, demand the best. Writers, remember this is an art AND a business. By fierce in both domains, and good luck!